What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. – A.W. Tozer
What is the emotion that comes to God’s heart when he looks at you? Most people don’t think about that question very often and if they do usually the silent and internal answer is something like, “God is disappointed in me. God is angry with me. God has forgotten about me. God is frustrated with me. God doesn’t care about me.”
Now, I would imagine you are already ahead of me in realizing that those assertions are more about how they feel about themselves or how they perceive significant others may feel about them, rather than how the God of the universe feels about them.
One of the hardest tasks I have as a pastor and a soul care provider is to convince people that God accepts them just as they are. He is madly in love with them and there is nothing they can do about it.
and Isaiah 42:3
Jesus is attracted to hopeless cases. He loves the fragile. He loves to come close to people who are beaten and who are battered and who are bruised and maybe don’t show it on the outside, but inside, they’re dying. He knows what to do with them—even if it is a self-inflicted wound.
At the end of John’s gospel, one of Jesus’ good friends is despondent because he let Jesus down in ways that few of us can even fathom. When called upon to say a good word for Jesus in his darkest hour, this man spat out a curse and claimed that he was no friend of Jesus. Then the cock crowed, and he ran away and wept bitterly.
He doesn’t know what to do, so he goes back to his pre-Jesus profession and begins to fish. Wouldn’t you know it? He fails at what he has done his entire adult life. He is a failure as a follower of Jesus and now he is a failure as a professional.
Then a voice called from the shore just at the break of dawn. Eventually, he recognizes who it is, after some help from a friend, and he swam to shore. There he found Jesus, seated on the beach beside a fire. And Jesus did not roll his eyes at Peter. He did not scold Peter. He did not shame Peter. He did not tell Peter, “I told you so.” What did Jesus do for Peter?
He offered him breakfast he had cooked on a charcoal fire and mended his broken heart.
I’ll tell you about a time when Jesus came close to me when I had a deep soul-contusion.
Several years ago, I realized that the ministry I had devoted 8 years of my life to was coming to an end. Our church in the Northwest was merging with another church and there was a good chance that there would not be a position for me in this newly merged church.
Feeling like a failure, I was embarrassed and didn’t share this with anyone.
In order to care for my own soul, I came here to Colorado and went backpacking. I spent four nights up at a remote lake by myself. I fished. I prayed. I wrote. I sang. It was one of the most soul-nourishing times I’ve ever had in the wilderness.
I had my little backpacking Bible with me. It is The Message version of the New Testament. I read one passage that took my breath away and caused me to fall to my knees. I read it over and over again through tear-filled eyes.
Here is what I read from Matthew 5,
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
I must have read those words out loud twenty-five times. I reached for another cup of coffee. I could hear the waves lapping against the shores of the alpine lake as the sun-splashed a pink glow on the peaks surrounding me. My stomach growled, and I began to eat my breakfast.
Breakfast with Jesus beside a lake.
My favorite comfort food.